A positive note

fountain pen on notepad

A bunch of rejec­tions cropped up in my email in the last week or so. I know it’s part of the job (the game? the process?), but it’s not all that much fun.

As I was gear­ing up to re-sub­mit the pieces in ques­tion, though, I got a cheery lit­tle mes­sage from a friend and fel­low author, which made me feel bet­ter about the whole thing.

Meant to say I quite enjoyed your sto­ry “The Smoke” and I hope you find a good place­ment for it. Did­n’t have much else to add, I like the nar­ra­tor and the end­ing. […] Great job!

So, thanks for that, Chadwick.

Cur­rent­ly “The Smoke” is in the mid­dle of edit­ing, but I assure you I’ll be send­ing it back to him when it’s ready for the next round. If you’d like to read it too—it’s a viking/Iceland–inspired ghost sto­ry… in space!—do let me know.

Publications in 2021

Image: scattered maps and old atlases

Out now on the fin­er Inter­nets every­where: my (very) short sto­ry “The Atlas”, which fea­tures an atlas, a bot­tle of absinthe, and a hunt­ing knife, pub­lished in Vol­ume 2 of Cloud Lake Lit­er­ary.

Forth­com­ing in Octo­ber 2021: Alter­nate Plains (avail­able for pre-order now!), fea­tur­ing my sto­ry “Sum­mer­time in the Void”, which is one answer to the ques­tion “What if the Sin­gu­lar­i­ty did­n’t want you?” (Can­ny Can­Con types might won­der if I lift­ed the title from an I Moth­er Earth song. The answer is “Absolute­ly.”)

(It’s been a long time since I had two pub­li­ca­tions in the same cal­en­dar year. I think the last time was ’04, when On Spec pub­lished “Res­ur­rec­tion Radio” and I won the Man­i­to­ba Short Fic­tion con­test with “A Map to the End of the World”.)

Publication day!

Image: scattered maps and old atlases

Today is the release date for Cloud Lake Lit­er­ary, Vol­ume 2, which con­tains my very short sto­ry “The Atlas”, which fea­tures an atlas with at least one extra coun­try, a bot­tle of absinthe, and a hunt­ing knife.

I just checked my stats on The Sub­mis­sions Grinder, and this one sold to the 18th mar­ket I sub­mit­ted it to. 17 mar­kets said, gen­tly or blunt­ly, “Thanks but no” before this one found a home.

I guess the les­son is, Keep try­ing. Some­one out there wants your story.

Writ­ers: If you’re not using The Sub­mis­sions Grinder, you owe it to your­self to at least look into it. It’s a mar­ket list for fic­tion and poet­ry, and it’s a sub­mis­sions track­er, and it’s free. It’ll let you import your data from Duotrope (if you were using Duotrope before, it’s kind of like a less-pol­ished Duotrope).

Cloud Lake Vol­ume 2 is avail­able for pur­chase from Cloud Lake’s site. For $10.00 $7.50 (Cana­di­an), you get fic­tion, non-fic­tion, chil­dren’s sto­ries, poet­ry, and art from 16 Cana­di­an cre­ative types.

Check it out!

Head­er image by Andrew Neel on Unsplash.

Strunk + White

fountain pen on notepad

I had a dream the oth­er night. I was vis­it­ing a friend—I don’t recall who, but it might have been one of the Craigs I know—and, left alone in a room, I was look­ing over the friend’s bookcase.

I found on there a copy of The Ele­ments of Style, col­lo­qui­al­ly known as “Strunk + White” after the authors. In the real world it’s a thin book, not much more impos­ing than a pam­phlet; I’ve read novel­las that are longer. But in the dream it was a trade paper­back, prob­a­bly 400 pages long, and I pulled it off the shelf. I used to have a copy, in the dream, and I thought maybe I’d lent it to this friend.

But if it was my copy, I had­n’t put my name in the front, which I usu­al­ly do when I lend out a book. So I hes­i­tat­ed, con­tem­plat­ed tak­ing it any­way, then decid­ed not to risk it. I put it back on the shelf.

I don’t remem­ber the rest of the dream.

When I searched the Inter­net for “Strunk and White”, I found this arti­cle from Mignon Fog­a­r­ty, aka Gram­mar Girl, in which she lays out one rea­son why she does­n’t much care for The Ele­ments of Style. (TL;DR: it’s a style guide that every­one treats like it’s a gram­mar book. In oth­er words, it’s a set of sug­ges­tions that peo­ple instead treat like laws.)

So close

fountain pen on notepad

I received this in the ol’ email inbox this afternoon.

Thank you very much for your sto­ry, and for let­ting us hang on to it for as long as we did. The piece has received more than one read, as our first read­er enjoyed it a great deal. Due to our cur­rent (the­mat­ic) pub­li­ca­tion needs, how­ev­er, we are unable to place this story.


Although we can’t use your work at this time, we thank you for think­ing of us and encour­age you to sub­mit again in the future.

The fun­ny thing is, they did­n’t tell me which sto­ry they were reject­ing, and I could­n’t remem­ber what I’d sub­mit­ted to their mar­ket. (I also could­n’t find my ini­tial sub­mis­sion in my out­box, but that was less sur­pris­ing; a lot of mar­kets these days are using Sub­mit­table or Mok­sha or some oth­er online sub­mis­sion gateway.)

Thank heav­ens for The Sub­mis­sions Grinder. I did a quick search on the mar­ket name, and found that, yes, I had sub­mit­ted a piece to them, wa-a-a-ay back in June 2020. Their sub­mis­sions page said that they don’t gen­er­al­ly send out rejec­tions, so if you did­n’t hear in about three months, assume you were not one of the lucky ones. I had assumed that, since Sep­tem­ber came and went with no word, that I was not one of the lucky ones.

Turns out I was right, but it seems I came clos­er than I thought.

Oh well. Once more unto the breach and all that. At least they liked the sto­ry; with form rejec­tions it can be very hard to tell.

PS: If you’re a writer and you’re not using The Sub­mis­sions Grinder, I strong­ly rec­om­mend you at least look into it.

Rejection → Rewrite

A torch burning in the dark

At the start of Decem­ber I heard about an anthol­o­gy look­ing for sto­ries on the theme of “Dere­licts”. The dead­line was tight—stories had to be sub­mit­ted by Dec. 31st—but I real­ized I had a sto­ry and so I slammed it out. I wrote 7,500 words about a colony world with a medieval-Iceland–influenced society—stratification into thrall, carl, jarl, and roy­al class­es, for instance—that had been set­tled by a swarm of faster-than-light colony ships. They were sur­prised when, two cen­turies after the colony was estab­lished, a very old, slow­er-than-light ves­sel showed up. They were even more sur­prised to dis­cov­er this new ship was emp­ty, except, per­haps, for a ghost.

I sent the sto­ry off on about Dec. 29th, and this past week I got the rejec­tion note. The anthol­o­gy received 1,400 sub­mis­sions, and could take only 20 sto­ries. The odds were not in my favour.

But—after a few min­utes of unhappiness—I’m OK with this sit­u­a­tion. The sto­ry was a tight fit at 7,500 words. There’s more to tell, I think, things I was forced to elide to fit the word-count lim­it. And I was nev­er real­ly hap­py with the title, either. I called it “The Smoke” but that felt like a place­hold­er title.

Where there’s smoke there’s fire, as they say, and I’ve decid­ed to dig into that. The new title is “Praise the Torch When ‘Tis Burned”, which ties into the Icelandic/Norse feel­ing I’ve got going on: One of the poems in the Poet­ic Edda is the Hávamál, the “Say­ings of Odin”, which fea­tures a stan­za that I’ve loved since I first read it: 

At evening praise the day, a torch¹ when burned,
A weapon when tried, a maid at wed­lock,
Ice when over it, ale when it is drunk.

It’s a very “don’t count your chick­ens till they hatch” piece of writ­ing. I have adopt­ed “Praise ice when over it” into my list of pre­ferred proverbs, part­ly for its wis­dom and part­ly because, where I live, you’re dri­ving on ice at least four months of the year.

So my plans for the next draft of this story:

  • New title
  • New focus
  • Improved world-build­ing

Wish me luck!

Pho­to by Igor Lep­ilin on Unsplash.

¹ Some trans­la­tions have it as “a woman when burned” or “a woman on her pyre”, and I don’t feel I’m the author to explore that.

December writing goals

Writer's Tears Irish Whiskey

It’s been a while since I did a “writ­ing goals” post, but this month I have a very con­crete goal, so here goes:

  • Fin­ish 1st and 2nd drafts of a short sto­ry for Dere­licts;
  • Route said sto­ry around for beta readers;
  • Pol­ish said sto­ry; and
  • Sub­mit said story.

(I keep call­ing it “said sto­ry” because I don’t have a title yet.)

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some writin’ to do.

Alan v. Disney

fountain pen on notepad

Well, this is gross.

From SFWA: #Dis­ney­Must­Pay Alan Dean Fos­ter:

Disney’s argu­ment is that they have pur­chased the rights but not the oblig­a­tions of the con­tract. In oth­er words, they believe they have the right to pub­lish work, but are not oblig­at­ed to pay the writer no mat­ter what the con­tract says.

I’m not a lawyer, but, uh, that does­n’t sound right to me. (Nei­ther does Dis­ney’s wish to have Mr. Fos­ter sign a non-dis­clo­sure agree­ment before nego­ti­a­tions even start.)

In this David vs. Goliath fight, I’m on David’s side.

I’m in a podcast

fountain pen on notepad

Years ago I wrote a fun­ny lit­tle flash sto­ry, called “Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One”, and shopped it around a bit to the few comedy/fantasy mar­kets I could find. Nobody bit, so I shrugged and post­ed it here on my site.

Ear­li­er this year, I got a mes­sage out of the blue from one of the peo­ple behind a SF/F/H pod­cast called Plan­et Racon­teur. He’d stum­bled across my sto­ry and was inter­est­ed in adding it to their pod­cast. I said “Sure”.

And now it’s been post­ed, as the lead sto­ry in Episode 11. Enjoy!